REVIEW: Zoe Fitzgerald Carter “Waterlines” is Rich Vocal Timbre


With a rich vocal timbre, the Bay Area’s Zoe Fitzgerald Carter’s 10-cut beauty of an LP Waterlines (Drops March 26 – Independent) & opens with “Better Things To Do,” assured & catchy.

Zoe (guitar/vocal) originally from Washington, DC displays clarity in her diversified set. Some folk, funk, & storytelling.

It’s a well-produced set, the sound is atmospheric. On “Below the Waterline,” Zoe sounds like she’s channeling the songwriting style of Nanci Griffith thru a Mary Chapin Carpenter tone. Zoe’s lyrics are applied with expertise. The accordion drenches the melody in a Parisian flavor. The showcase is refreshing.

Zoe’s varied styles could have her easily compared to many past artists. However, Zoe manages to clearly maintain a striking style of her own. There’s little that contains cliches though it comes close at times. Zoe negotiates creativity with maturity & seldom fails. Even a rather simplistic song like “Only Girl,” has depth & is layered in a warm presentation that could’ve easily been a confection. It isn’t.

Acoustically the playing is superb & the conjoining of acoustic guitar picking & accordion on “Owl in Kensington,” is an expressive sign of creativity. Vocally, she’s reminiscent of Michigan singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer (“Leaves Don’t Fall They Just Let Go”).

There aren’t any boring moments. They’re well-crafted songs. “These Words,” with the addition of Erik Jekabson’s flugelhorn gives the cleverly written song a Chuck Mangione-lite jazz tilt. Zoe soundly balances between genres easily. “Saturday Man,” goes samba & Zoe doesn’t over-reach. Her voice has a good supper club tone & next time a little piano would be ideal.

Musicians featured: Dawn Richardson (drums), Julie Wolf (keyboards), Michael Papenburg (guitar). Paul Olguin (bass), & Erik Jekabson (trumpet/flugelhorn).

My only issue isn’t the song “I Want to Be a Teenage Boy,” – a humorously clever exercise — but its influence.

Zoe says she wrote it during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings for Supreme Court Justice. Maybe choosing Edward Kennedy would’ve worked better? My point? This is what alienates some potential buyers of music. Ask Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen.

Musically? The CD nonetheless is a good listen by a talented young woman & a wonderful singer.

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